Conference leaders' speech: Green Party backs global climate strike

8 June 2019

The Green Party co-leaders have called for adults to join children in the global strike against climate change later this year.

In their speech [1] at Green Party conference in Scarborough the leaders backed the Student Climate Strikes and called on those able to do so to join the strike in September.

The Green Party’s conference comes after a successful period for the party - seeing them achieve record results in both the local and European elections. Recently polling has also seen them achieve their best-ever position in general election voting intention polls, and seen the environment shoot towards the top of people’s concerns.

Speaking to the conference, Jonathan Bartley said: “Young people have laid down a challenge. And conference, we will take it up. Today we are joining that call for a global strike in September.

“So we say this to those able to do so:  'Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell your employers that the emergency is right here, right now. And we must strike for the climate.'”

The party’s leaders will also back a Green New Deal to counter the climate change emergency, and demand that the Government scrap Trident nuclear weapons, ditch HS2 and reject new nuclear power plants.



(Check against delivery - starts 1pm)

Jonathan Bartley


Let’s cut to the chase.  

Together we have made history.

At our Autumn conference last year we said we wanted to take things to the next level.

That we were ambitious for our party.

And we put the other parties on notice.

We said we would stand up for the country we want to be.

Stand up for Freedom of Movement.

Be courageous and uncompromising on the environment.

And that we would never give up the fight against austerity and inequality.

Yes to Europe. No to climate chaos.

Our message has been loud. It’s been clear. And it won us more seats than ever before.

Sian Berry

Conference, we are so proud of our party’s achievements.

In the local elections we broke through on over 50 new councils.  

And more than doubled our number of councillors.  

The biggest proportional increase of any party, and the most successful council elections in our history.

And don’t let anyone tell you this was a protest vote.  

This was no flash in the pan. Let no one tell you that we are a single issue party.

The fact is Greens have called every major issue of recent times right.

And our rise in the national polls has been consistent and steady for far more than just the last few weeks.

Two years ago we were used to seeing 3 per cent in the Westminster polls. In the past year we’ve regularly hit 5 per cent, and some at 7. Two weeks ago after the local elections we polled at 8.

And now we’ve seen, last week, 11 per cent of people saying they will vote Green. More than one in ten people saying they will vote Green in a General Election.

That rise in our polling for Parliament - to positively European levels - is also a tribute to the work of our Greens in Parliament.

Caroline and Jenny are just two parliamentarians, but sometimes it feels like they’re doing the work of 200.

And when the public say in such numbers they want more Caroline Lucases, we say yes, so do we! 

Our magnificent council result saw people all over the country voting for people they believed in like we all believe in Caroline.

Your work on the ground, all year round, made so many realise that when you vote Green you get Green.

And those new Green councillors are now hard at work transforming their towns and cities.

Inspired by Councillor Carla Denyer in Bristol, they are passing motions to declare a climate emergency.

Pushing Green ideas, and holding the other parties to account.

Because a green in the room, at the table, in the town hall, is the most effective opposition you can get. Green councillors - so many of you - really are changing everything!

Jonathan Bartley

And conference in the European Elections we made history too.

Coming first in places like Brighton, Norwich and Bristol

Winning new seats in the North West, Yorkshire and Humber, West Midlands and the Eastern Region.

And for the first time beating the party of Government.

We want to pay tribute to Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor for all their amazing work over so many years, laying the foundations, and carrying the Green torch at the heart of Europe.

And now we have the magnificent 7: Scott, Gina, Ellie, Alexandra, Magid, Catherine.

And of course Molly. Re-elected to represent the South West with our biggest vote. A fantastic endorsement of the work you have done.

And conference, what a time to be in Scarborough!

Just ten years after Yorkshire sent a member of the BNP to the European Parliament, they elected a black - Muslim - refugee - from the Green Party.

Conference today we pledge to support all our Green MEPs.

Standing against the Far Right.

Standing up for equality.

And standing firm for climate justice.

And conference, the London elections are next year.

We are running neck and neck with the Conservatives there too.

So today we are putting the capital on notice.

We want London to be the greenest city in the world and Sian to be its first Green Mayor.

Sian Berry

The climate crisis is heading up the agenda.

Conference. At last the world is waking up to the climate emergency.

The UN has warned we have just 11 years to turn things around.

That we face unprecedented extinction and loss of our natural world.

And something very special is happening in response.  

There is a new spirit of resistance.

And now even the BBC is talking about climate chaos!

We have seen this spirit in Extinction Rebellion.

We have seen it in the school strikes.

We have seen it when Greta Thunberg sat on the steps of the Swedish Parliament and said enough is enough.

The Green wave which swept Europe was a testament to the work of Green Parties, yes, but it was also thanks to the dedication, the sacrifice and the perseverance of defenders of the earth going out on the streets across the continent.

From London to Lille, Leipzig to Leeds, Linköping to Liverpool.

In the face of an unprecedented crisis, people across the world who have never done this before are taking unprecedented mass direct action, and breaking laws.

But these peaceful protests need a proportionate police response - not time and effort spent pursuing them in the courts when we all, police included, have better things to focus on.

The police must end proceedings against the 1100 activists now facing not just arrest but prosecution for joining the extinction rebellion.

Today conference, we call for a climate amnesty - no further action against those who stood up against the greatest threat we face. These heroes must be set free.

Jonathan Bartley

And conference we want to pay a special tribute to all the young people who walked out of school to strike for our climate.

As we marched alongside them, they told us they were calling out our generation and the ones that have gone before.

Asking why they should go to school when their very future is being stolen from them.

It is their generation that faces the worst consequences of climate breakdown.

They know that only drastic, urgent action will protect them.

Some as young as 9 years old.

Conference they aren’t the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today.

And now they are calling for a general climate strike.  

They want adults to walk out of work and join them on the streets.

Young people have laid down a challenge. And conference, we will take it up.

Today we are joining that call for a global strike in September.

So we say this to those able to do so.  

Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell your employers that the emergency is right here, right now. And we must strike for the climate.

Sian Berry

Conference, the challenge we face is not purely an environmental one.

We face an economic system that doesn’t just lead to climate breakdown, but hurts our communities every single day.

We know that the social and climate crises are part of the same broken ecology.

That we will only solve one as we solve the other.

That there is no such thing as climate justice without economic justice.

And without justice between nations.

And without racial justice too.

Solving all these crises means making the links and taking radical, bold action across the board.

So it also means an end to the prison industrial complex - and the evidence-free overuse of incarceration.

It means an end to heavy handed policing that hurts people of colour most. And an end to the idea that safe communities can be delivered solely through policing.

And conference we cannot face up to the challenges we face at home unless we are honest about Britain’s place in the world.

A Britain built for the future cannot be one of Victorian poor laws and prisons.

And it cannot be a country whose place on the world stage is determined with weapons of mass destruction as our bargaining chip

So we re-state this here today. Loud and clear: We must step off the defence spending escalator, we must be peacekeepers not the world’s police - and Trident nuclear weapons must be scrapped.

Jonathan Bartley

And it’s not just Trident that must be scrapped. We need to think hard and fast about the infrastructure a Britain built for the future really needs.

It means no new nuclear power.

Not wasting £30 billion on road building

Or £10 billion a year in fossil fuel subsidies.

Or fracking for new fossil fuels.

Or airport expansion.

And that is why today we are not just calling for the scrapping of the environmental vandalism of HS2 but proposing we invest the tens of billions instead in the real transport revolution this country needs.

Conference we can eliminate domestic flights and get people out of their cars with the proper investment.

Upgrading and electrifying lines, building new cross country routes between our cities, and putting more freight on the tracks.

And investing locally too in new bus services, cycling and walking.

Nothing less than wholesale transformation of our transport network.

Conference, when we grew up in the 1970s we were told that a day was coming when we would create unprecedented wealth.  

New technology would liberate us from the world of work.  

We would find that endless supply of energy.  

We would live richer, fuller lives.

Well, our economy is now three times larger.

Technology has transformed our world.  

And we have learned how to harness the power of the wind, sun and sea.

But where are the benefits? We work longer hours in precarious work. Hundreds of thousands rely on foodbanks. A country condemned by the UN for its treatment of the disabled.  

Just over 10 years ago it was the Green Party who said austerity wasn’t the answer to the financial crisis.

We were laughed at then.

But now we live in the dark shadow of that tragic mistake and the catastrophe it has unleashed.

We have the resources. We have the wealth.

And conference if we properly tax the rich we can provide the money to deal with both the climate crisis and live the better, larger lives we were promised.

And our message to the Chancellor is this. You say we can’t afford it? We say ‘we can’t afford not to’.

Sian Berry

Think about that. The implication of the Treasury’s warnings are what? That our Chancellor thinks we can’t afford to build a better society, to see our children survive and thrive in the current century?

Conference, there is another truth that we must also restate today. The way the treasury narrows its focus entirely on Gross Domestic Product, is completely wrong.

That our measures of progress need to change.

I pledge today that Greens will, wherever we have the power, rip up and change the treasury’s rules on how we spend public money and count what really matters.

Their so-called Green Book has to go. Greens in power will fix this - the very backbone of Government decision making.

We would set new goals for a Green economy focused on real wellbeing, on solving our crises and building abundance.

These goals would be how we make spending decisions.

And they would be the measures of our success for holding elected Greens to account.

Green goals like:

Cutting gender, race and disability pay gaps

Reducing personal debt

Cutting pollution and providing clean air to breathe

Making sure young people are safe and supported to thrive

Fewer overcrowded, and cold, damp homes

More people with secure tenancies

More families paying rents they can afford

We say throw GDP in the bin. When our communities are thriving, our young people are reaching their potential, and our streets and homes are healthy and safe, then we will know that our economy is working.

Jonathan Bartley

And conference, let’s finally have that Green New Deal.

The biggest, boldest, most ambitious plan for jobs, for industry, for our towns and our cities.

It would mean new, secure well-paid work in every corner of these islands.

Warm homes - lower bills, more money kept in people’s pockets.

The greatest transformation Britain has seen since we rebuilt our country after the second world war.

And it would mean this country doing what’s right for the world too - pulling UK-based fossil fuel giants out of countries where they do harm, and helping fund climate-resilience across the world.

It won’t work if it happens in just one country.

That’s why our MEPs are making plans right now with colleagues from across the continent on an EU-wide deal.

And today we are saying this loud and clear.  To transform this continent and to bring lasting prosperity to every nation, region, town and village. We demand a Green New Deal.

Sian Berry

Conference, this is no time to talk about ‘managed decline’.

It’s time to talk about the abundance we could build.

We have won the argument about delaying the end of the world.

But we owe our young people much more than winning them a few more years.

We owe them the policies and plans that build a new world that’s amazing.

The work we do is described often as “environmental protection” but we need a better model.

There is nothing inspiring about saying “We will make things get worse more slowly.”

The new fiercer carbon targets mean not just cutting down what we emit but building up what the earth absorbs.

In every part of our work, from the Green New Deal to ecosystems, we are working to create real and lasting abundance and we should shout about that more proudly.

We can shout about planting billions of new trees worldwide, letting our countryside and uplands rewild. Helping the soil become rich with life, with organic, sustainable farming.

Shout that the Greens wouldn’t just cancel the M4 relief road - our plans would make the whole of South Wales as abundant as the Gwent Levels.

We’d build an abundance of life,

Alongside the abundance of energy and jobs from a Green New Deal

And the abundance of wellbeing from our new Green goals.

Today we are sending a message to our Government.

Let’s hear no more about what we can’t afford to save.

Let’s shout about the abundance we can afford to WIN.

Jonathan Berry

But conference there is another, very immediate, fight. And winning it is not going to be easy.

Yes the Brexit project is falling apart. The Prime Minister is going. The Deal can’t get through Parliament. Public opinion is shifting decisively for remaining in Europe.

But to win the People’s Vote we need to make our message very clear.

It’s a message of Remain and Transform.

Keep our seat at the top table.

Keep that easy trade and cooperation with our nearest neighbours, yes.

And benefit from workers’ rights and environmental protections.

But also transform the country and the continent. That must mean redoubling support and investment for regions and nations long forgotten by the Westminster elite. It means ending austerity and repairing Britain’s broken social fabric.

And it must mean being honest and positive about migration - never pandering to the hatemongers or being afraid to make the case for Freedom of Movement.

And let’s be very clear that is isn’t just Farage and his mates who shame the country with their treatment of migrants.

This government is culpable too. From Home Office ‘Go home Vans’, to the Windrush Scandal, to the deportation of LGBT people who will face persecution.

People like Ken Macharia. A gay man from Kenya.

He’s lived in Britain ten years. He’s built a life in Bristol. And on Monday he received a letter from the Home Office saying he should return - to a country where gay sex is banned and where violent homophobia is rife. He’s now stuck in limbo - waiting for their next move.

Ken’s testimony is heartbreaking. ‘This isn’t some sort of game’ he said. ‘I’m not a number, I’m a real person with a life in this country who is simply demanding to be protected from extreme danger.’

Conference this treatment of people as figures on a spreadsheet is not a mistake. It is government policy. And it is Theresa May’s shameful and scarring legacy.

So today we demand that the Home Office gives Ken the permanent right to remain in the UK. And that the UK never again deports an LGBT person to a country where they face such danger.

And Conference we also need to start talking about the democratic crisis.

Our multiparty democracy is trapped in the cage of an ancient electoral system.

It can’t go on like this. People outside 90 marginal constituencies can no longer be told that their votes won’t count. How can it be right that in the South West, for example, that the 90% of those elected in 2017 were Conservatives, despite the party only winning half of the vote.

Remain and Transform must mean an end - once and for all - to the First Past the Post stitch up that has so damaged democracy and fanned the inferno of anger people feel at the political establishment.

The old system is broken and on its knees. We need a democratic revolution, and any campaign to Remain must have that at its heart.

We call today for: Proportional elections to the House of Commons. Citizens assemblies and a constitutional convention to shift power away from Westminster and back into the hands of the people.

Sian Berry

Conference, the old politics is not working, and all the old parties are responsible.

They have all given ground to the right, on freedom of movement, on Europe, on public spending. Labour and Conservatives yes, but...

Let’s not forget that while the Lib Dems paint themselves as the defenders of liberal, internationalist values, they were all too happy to sign up to the austerity programme that has cost an estimated 130,000 lives.

They waved through the bedroom tax. They hiked tuition fees. They cut our welfare state.

And no amount of rebranding will change that.

Everywhere we go we hear one thing repeated. People are sick and tired of business as usual.

They’re sick of half-measures, of back-room deals. Of politicians who say one thing and do another.

Conference, when people voted Green in May, they knew exactly what they were voting for.

Jonathan Bartley

For hundreds of new councillors who listen to their communities and work hard from the streets to the council chambers.

Sian Berry

For a strong and bigger group of MEPs who have the plans we need to get out of the climate emergency in time.

Jonathan Bartley

A party that’s right on the big issues of today, and with the big ideas for tomorrow.

Sian Berry

A party full of committed, tenacious people - from teenage climate strikers to anti-fracking nanas, refugees to teachers, doctors to local champions.

Jonathan Bartley

For a Green party at the forefront of standing up to the far right - here and across Europe.

Sian Berry

The right have their own violent vision for the future.  But we have the tool to stop them. A movement of people rising up all around us.

Jonathan Bartley

We say to everyone on the verge of joining our movement. Join us now. We say yes to Europe. We say no to climate chaos and no to austerity.

Sian Berry

We say join us, and together we can change everything.

Thank you.

Back to main news page